Attempt To Frame Justin Amash's Protection Of Civil Liberties As 'Supporting Terrorists' Fails Miserably At The Polls

from the wake-up-authoritarians dept

Rep. Justin Amash has been one of the most involved and active voices in Congress on pushing back against the intelligence community's overreach and attack on our civil liberties. Many folks know him for the Amash Amendment, which would have defunded the NSA's bulk collection of phone records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. While it was narrowly defeated, it certainly woke up many in Congress to the fact that the surveillance scandal was a real deal. Over the last year, though, we'd been hearing more and more stories about how the "mainstream Republicans" were looking to unseat Amash in the primaries. Amash is often identified as being in the "Tea Party" wing of the party, and sometimes described as more "libertarian."

The very powerful US Chamber of Commerce targeted Amash as an "easy target" to oust, arguing that his views on civil liberties put him at odds with the (many) conservative voters in his district. The primary attack on him focused heavily on Amash's support for civil liberties, directly arguing that such protection of our civil liberties meant he was "supporting terrorists." Here, for example, is a campaign ad his primary opponent Brian Ellis used against him, quoting someone referring to Amash as "Al Qaeda's best friend in Congress" and claiming Amash wanted to "shut down American intelligence for monitoring terrorists." It quotes a veteran saying: "It makes no sense. We were out there fighting for the country and he's voting against anything that would help us."
It's exactly the kind of campaign that you might expect would work in a heavily conservative, "American values" kind of district that Amash represents, if you believe in the traditional narratives and stereotypes. However, that effort failed miserably, and as Conor Friedersdorf explains, that's a good sign for civil liberties. There's this ridiculous narrative that "conservative" voters are in favor of surveillance and against protecting civil liberties, but that's always been a silly argument. Protecting civil liberties isn't "supporting terrorists," it's a fundamental concept in the Constitution and should be seen as an American value that cuts across any partisan divide.
His easy primary victory already matters because it shows that Republicans who want to rein in the NSA, repeal the Patriot Act, and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay can win a primary vote handily—even in a safe Republican district where a shameless opponent tries to portray them as siding with the enemy.
Amash's victory in the primary gives a bit of hope for civil liberties. It suggests that voters aren't the stereotypical morons that the traditional narratives often make them out to be. They can understand how protecting civil liberties should be a truly American ideal and it doesn't mean you're supporting terrorists. Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee came out against bulk surveillance by the NSA. It's increasingly becoming clear that the narrative that "Republicans have to support surveillance" is not an accurate story at all.

Bonuse: Amash's victory speech does not pull any punches in calling out the campaign against him.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 6th, 2014 @ 7:07pm

    Quite the contrary actually

    Protecting civil liberties isn't "supporting terrorists,"

    Protecting civil liberties, and refusing to sacrifice the rights of the people in order to 'protect' them from terrorists isn't supporting terrorists, it's refusing to do their job for them.

    When the government erodes, ignores, or destroys the rights of the people, in exchange for a temporary sense of 'safety'? That's a win for terrorists and terrorism.

    When the government constantly goes on about how people need to be afraid, how it's only by giving up their rights that the government can 'protect' them? That's a win for terrorists and terrorism.

    Standing up for and protecting civil liberties isn't 'supporting terrorists', but attacking and eroding civil liberties very much is.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2014 @ 9:02pm

    Eroding civil liberties is "supporting terrorists". It's giving them what they most want.

     

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  3.  
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    MrTroy (profile), Aug 6th, 2014 @ 9:51pm

    Re: Quite the contrary actually

    This, very much this.

    Consider why terrorists would want to attack America. If it's to damage the "American way of life" and muzzle "the home of the free", then the only way to stop them from achieving their aims is to protect civil liberties, the entire basis for the freedom that terrorists (presumably) want to destroy.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2014 @ 10:08pm

    Too Much Credit

    You are giving the voters way too much credit. Currently the "extremests" on the right think the government is out to get them and want to shrink the government as much as possible. To them defunding the NSA makes perfect sense.

    The "extremests" on the left think the government is out to get us and destroy are civil liberties. To them, defunding the NSA makes perfect sense.

    The only ones left are a small group in the "center" that think the NSA is perfectly OK. All this does is show that this group of "centerists" isn't enough to win an election in lots of places.

     

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  5.  
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    Whatever (profile), Aug 6th, 2014 @ 10:10pm

    defunding

    which would have defunded the NSA's bulk collection of phone records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.

    Any politician using the backdoor method of "defunding" a program while not addressing the program in law is a perfect example of why Washington is broken. If you don't like the problem, ADDRESS IT DIRECTLY. Attempting to defund something is another stupid political stunt that just doesn't work, because it doesn't address the core issue.

    It doesn't surprise me to find out this guy is a Republican. You would think he would have learned the lesson about defunding already, but it seems the Republicans are slow learners.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2014 @ 10:21pm

    Re: defunding

    It was a statement - and considering how much support he got, it was apparently a strong statement - as the NSA was scared enough to call emergency meetings with congress to avert the defunding.

     

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  7.  
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    Whatever (profile), Aug 6th, 2014 @ 10:37pm

    Re: Re: defunding

    The level of support is part of the problem. Where are these "supporters" when it comes time to actually deal with the law itself and resolve the issue? GONE. They will make a nice statement when they know they won't get held to it (no chance of passing), but if they actually had to face up and propose changes to the law to remove the program, they would all scramble for the darkness like good congress critters do when it comes time to deal with real issues.

    Nobody, nobody, nobody in Washington wants to appear even slightly weak on national defense or working to stop "terrorists". They don't want to be the ones who changed the law and then have something bad happen - it would literally be a career end play.

    Republicans don't have the votes to get anything done directly, so they try to tack on amendments to defund things. They got their asses handed to them over Obamacare, shutting down the government because they wanted to defund it. The Republican party appears to have thrown away any lead they might have had over the democrats as a result. Obama may suck, but the Republicans seem intent on shooting themselves in the foot at every turn.

     

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  8.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 6th, 2014 @ 10:45pm

    Even the boy who cried wolf finally learned, if you do it to much people stop listening.
    They keep screaming terrorists over and over, and yet the truly bad actors are the ones screaming terrorist and trying to distract people from what they are doing.

    I hope the pendulum is working its way back to the side where we actually have rights that have to be respected.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 1:57am

    Re: Too Much Credit

    I must repeat again, this is not a left right issue, but rather where people stand on the anarchy/totalitarian axis. The real question is how much control the state should have over its citizens lives and activities.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Howard (profile), Aug 7th, 2014 @ 2:05am

    Re: Quite the contrary actually

    When the government constantly goes on about how people need to be afraid, how it's only by giving up their rights that the government can 'protect' them? That's a win for terrorists and terrorism.

    This is literally terrorism by the government. Instilling fear for political motives (regardless of the non-foreign nature of it). Throw in the self-invented plots and red flag ops. as physical violence, and it matches the Wikipedia definition of 'Terrorism'

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 2:45am

    Re: Too Much Credit

    I agree that the center is increasingly becoming irrelevant in USA due to the primaries (It is difficult for moderates to win on either side since the bases are what decides who even enters the election and therefore the more "valued" will have an advantage over the pragmatists).

    However, I see most issues related to surveillance, copyright and internet freedoms as either too insignificant in the grand scheme of discussions or related to non-partisan deliberations.

    Surveillance is one of these things where the two-party system do not cover anywhere close to the spread in opinions. Far left might argue that the state is meant to protect the population or assume they are the target of surveillance and fight it tooth and nail. Far right might argue the national interests are being protected by surveillance or assume they are the target of surveillance and fight it tooth and nail. So ultimately surveillance is not a question of ideology, but more about perceptions.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 3:38am

    Re: Re: Too Much Credit

    Indeed. The only socialist in congress (B Sanders) turns out to have one of the best civil liberties records. Now do I tie that inherently to socialist ideology? Of course not!

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 3:41am

    Re: defunding

    I appreciate Amash's efforts, but screw the RNC and their "opposition" to mass surveillance. Considering the statement they released w.r.t. PATRIOT was 'we agree with Sensenbrenner that it's still a good law, just being misused' shows they don't understand it for shit and just want political cover.

    I'll be pestering my reps to cosponsor the Surveillance State Repeal Act.

     

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  14.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Aug 7th, 2014 @ 3:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Too Much Credit

    sanders is SINO (socialist in name only), simply because to be somewhat left of attila the hun is to be a radical left-winger in our skewed political discourse...
    he caucuses with the dem'rats, and rarely strays far from the status quo, he voted along with the rest of the frightened kongresskritters to pat israel on the back for its current illegal, immoral campaign of extinction...
    in other words, he supports Empire, no matter what...

    Empire must fall
    the sooner the fall,
    the gentler for all...

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 3:51am

    There has to be some kind of fallacy for "If you are for X then you are against Y."
    If not, then there needs to be one. Perhaps the Political Fallacy.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 4:15am

    Good for him.

    Glad to see him win.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 4:19am

    Re: defunding

    >Inflammatory drivel written about what the majority of readers here consider good news just to get kick out of it.

    Seriously, what are 17 ? Back 13 years ago we'd make republicans go apeshit and call us unamerican for immediately declaring this made-for-tv movie of 911 (to cover what really happened, and to play on your oh-so easy to play with emotions from all those vic-sims. And that's still debating true things,get to my old troll level (I do not troll anymore, it was a fun ride though, mmmm text newsgroups).

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 4:22am

    Re: Quite the contrary actually

    Security expert Bruce Schneier has phrased this succinctly: "The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized."

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 4:22am

    Re: defunding

    Unfortunately you make some very good points. Defunding a small aspect of the NSA's very large budget probably won't change much. How does that actually work? They could just funnel money from elsewhere to continue the program and find other ways to make that money back from other programs.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 4:30am

    Y u hate America and want freedom, Amash? America is the land of national security after all.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 5:31am

    Re:

    I think that's "false dichotomy" :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dichotomy

    Certainly is a false dichotomy if X and Y are clear opposites.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 6:16am

    Re: Re:

    Perhaps one that is "If A is for X then B must be for Y."

     

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  23.  
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    Matthew A. Sawtell, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 9:47am

    Mind you, this was only the primary, and Nov is months away...

    ... going to be interesting to see what the folks at DNC will attempt to do - much like the 'bang up job' in Kentucky:

    http://blog.angryasianman.com/2014/08/elaine-chao-cant-be-from-kentucky-she.html

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 10:30am

    His victory speech might be the best victory speech of all time. I liked him before, I love him now.

     

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  25.  
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    reader50 (profile), Aug 7th, 2014 @ 10:48am

    "Bonuse:"? Is Senator Amash of French descent? If so, I think you forgot an accent mark. Bonusé

     

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  26.  
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    Incognitus, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 10:55am

    Re: defunding

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_of_the_purse

    Learn yourself some stuff and try to understand why this tactic is valid.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Quite the contrary actually

    I disagree with this. I fail to see what they gain by the US becoming a police state. The US becoming a police state is neither here nor there for them. Never forget that terror is not the goal of the terrorist, terror is the means of the terrorist.

     

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  28.  
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    Whatever (profile), Aug 7th, 2014 @ 1:04pm

    Re: Re: defunding

    I understand the potential power of defunding, but I consider it the political choice of cowards. Defunding is a very narrow use of the "power of the purse", and one that is generally used by the minority party to annoy the majority.

    The point is more this: If they have the votes needed to stop the surveillance, then they should use the political capital to change the law. Defunding at best means that funds will come from some other semi-slushy funding process, or the program re-classed to another area. If they have the votes, then they should amend the law to stop the "abuse" altogether, and not just take away a few dollars and hope they stop.

    Defunding is a weak, cowardly way to try to effect change, and usually fails. Even the Reagan era Republicans dodged around it.

     

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  29.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 7th, 2014 @ 5:03pm

    Re: Re: Quite the contrary actually

    Well, ignoring the fact that different terrorists have different goals, let's talk about ones that have the goal of the destruction of the US: encouraging the US to become a police state is a long mile down that road. It would certainly be a gain for them.

     

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  30.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 7th, 2014 @ 11:57pm

    Re: Re: Quite the contrary actually

    Given such a change pits the public against the government, and causes massive distrust between the two groups, weakening both, I'd say it would suit them just fine actually.

    Basic strategy says one of, if not the best ways to take out a powerful opponent is to give them something else to fight, with the best case scenario that of internal strife, fighting amongst themselves. At that point you just stand back and watch them destroy themselves, with nothing more needed on your part.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 1:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: defunding

    While I agree it may not always be the most effective way to stop a program it is hardly cowardly to defund a program you believe is wrong. Why should anyone care that you personally think it's cowardly. What does this contribute to the discussion. If anything calling it cowardly is a cowardly and immature way to avoid a more serious discussion. As far as not being able to get the votes if they defund it then they got the votes to defund it. You act like if they don't get the votes in Congress then we should not discuss this further. This is supposed to be a democracy and in a democracy an open discussion over various policies among citizens is a good thing.

    It's also not like other options are necessarily more effective. I think too many of these government agencies are overkill anyways and some of them (like the TSA) should be abolished while others should be largely defunded (and not just narrowly so). I think defunding is only part of the solution. The solution should also include strict laws against these types of programs and strict personal punishments against those responsible for breaking the law. Unfortunately you need a prosecutor to try and convict those responsible and the various components of the government are reluctant to do anything.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 2:02pm

    Re:

    It seems like the last minute smear campaign lost much of its effectiveness. The public is getting smarter. This type of tactic may have been more effective in the mainstream media dark ages where a small nit tight guild/cult controlled most of the major media outlets and they would abuse their media power to fear monger everyone into voting for who they want but it doesn't work as well anymore.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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